This introductory chapter provides an overview of the ʻukulele. Today, the ʻukulele is enjoying what is often referred to as a third wave of popularity—the first being the Roaring Twenties and the second coming during the early fifties. Since the ʻukulele's introduction to Hawaii by Madeiran contract workers in 1879, it has functioned simultaneously on a number of different levels—musical, cultural, economic, and even political. These multiple levels parallel what in Hawaii is known as kaona—the ability of the Hawaiian language to simultaneously convey both a literal meaning and an underlying layer of metaphor and allusion with an entirely different meaning.
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